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Last Updated: Monday, 25 February 2008, 00:24 GMT
Cancer plan 'needs more funding'
cancer screening
The strategy calls for better cancer screening services
Government plans to improve cancer care across England could fail because of lack of funding and a postcode lottery of services, campaigners warn.

A coalition of 40 cancer charities said there were "serious concerns" about implementation of the Cancer Reform Strategy launched last year.

Cancer survival in the UK is still below the European average, despite recent improvements.

The government stressed they were committed to implementing the strategy.

Health Secretary Alan Johnson announced 370m investment by 2010 to underpin the five-year plan.

Proposals include speeding up drug approval, more money for radiotherapy services and a possible clampdown on sunbeds and cigarette vending machines.

Breast and bowel cancer screening programmes will also be extended as well as a greater focus on prevention.

The Cancer Campaigning Group said their members were generally delighted with the ambitious strategy but they had not yet seen evidence that plans were being put in place.

And they stressed there was no new money and that announced by the government was existing funding.

Clear plan

Members of the Group also raised concerns that speeding up decisions on use of new drugs in the NHS could mean more treatments are turned down.

And it called for clear work plans for each of the new initiatives, such as clinical nurse specialists, with clear timelines for delivery.

Gina Coladangelo, spokesperson for the Cancer Campaigning Group, told the BBC that some trusts had very good cancer mortality figures but others were seriously lagging.

"We're concerned about how the Department of Health is going to ensure consistency and good standards across the board.

"The charities are increasingly concerned about implementation of the plan.

"There's no timetable for the specific project plans and there is no new funding and a lot of the new things will have to be funded by stopping things that aren't having an impact but that's going to be pretty difficult.

"There's also new treatments and drugs coming online all the time."

However, she did stress the strategy was "a big step forward" in acknowledging the scale of the task to improving cancer treatment and prevention in England.

Health minister Ann Keen said the government was committed to delivering improvements in cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

"Cancer networks and primary care trusts are currently developing implementation plans at a local level.

"We are supporting the strategy through an investment of 370 million by 2010 and we're investing a total of 250 million in capital equipment for cancer over the next three years - 120 million for digital mammography and 130 million for radiotherapy."

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